On Tuesday at a meeting starting at 10am, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority will consider whether to spend an additional $4.5 million in engineering to assess additional options for the Downtown Extension (DTX) that will continue the Caltrain tracks to the Transbay Transit Center, serving Caltrain and High Speed Rail.
Since the Downtown Extension was environmentally reviewed over a decade ago, tunneling technology has advanced, and the city has been exploring options to extend the tunnel further past the 4th and King station, eliminating the need for an awkward, bike-ped-hostile, and also expensive underpass at the 16th and 7th gateway to Mission Bay.
San Francisco Planning has been conducting a multi-dimensional study considering a range of factors including adding buildings on land currently used by Caltrain to park trains; taking down and boulevardizing the stub end of I280 – an option that was panned by car-preferring neighbors; and alternative alignments for the tracks including moving a Caltrain station into Mission Bay (see image below for the alignment alternatives). An important next step in the study will be a community meeting this spring.
The SFCTA discussion about taking the next step to assess DTX alternatives is being held in the context of an update on the DTX options study, and the currently shaky status of federal funding for Caltrain electrification, which passed all the needed federal qualifications, only to be held up for lack of the Transportation Secretary’s signature as the Trump Administration contemplates eliminating all new transit capital funding.
Eliminating or slashing federal funding would slow Caltrain electrification, BART-Silicon Valley, the DTX project, and every other major transit project in the country.
The SFCTA could consider the suddenly chilly climate for federal transit funding and decide to pause further investments in this major piece of the city and region’s transportation infrastructure. Or it could move forward, considering that the climate will likely shift again, and it’s better to have projects ready to go when funding becomes available, whether it’s federal funding as expected, or other regional and state alternatives that could be needed to keep California moving forward while the country moves backwards.
If you’ll be near San Francisco City Hall around 10am, consider stopping by to speak up for the Downtown Extension and continuing forward motion on the region’s transit infrastructure.